- Most flights out of Fiji have been grounded due to the pandemic.
- The country’s Olympic rugby team was forced to hitch a ride to the Tokyo Games on a cargo flight full of frozen fish.
- Lorraine Mar, the head of Fiji’s Olympic executive committee, called traveling to Tokyo was a “logistical challenge.”
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Athletes from around the world are arriving in Tokyo as the Olympic Games are set to kick off in two weeks — but it’s not likely that many are flying with fish.
That’s the case, however, for Fiji’s Olympic rugby team. According to New Zealand’s Stuff magazine, they’ll be making the trek en poisson.
The country is currently battling a new wave of COVID infections and registering a daily average of more than 700 cases a week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. With the pandemic far from over, commercial flights in and out of the Pacific nation are mostly grounded until the end of this month.
This has made arranging flights for athletes a “logistical challenge,” said Lorraine Mar, the chief executive of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee, on Wednesday. The lack of transportation has forced them to look at other travel options, like cargo flights.
The flight is carrying 51 athletes and officials, mainly from Fiji’s men’s and women’s Rugby Sevens teams but also a track and field athlete, two swimmers, a table tennis player, and a judo competitor, reported Stuff.
They are flying from Fiji’s Nadi International Airport to Narita Airport in Tokyo on a scheduled freight flight with room for passengers, said Mar.
Fiji was also trying to get athletes from other south pacific nations to Tokyo by doing “a milk run around the other islands to collect everyone,” said Mar, reported the South China Morning Post. But it was eventually decided that it was not “commercially viable.”
The Tokyo Games has been fraught with challenges, as Japan struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, Tokyo declared a state of emergency and said it was banning spectators from the Games.